Submitted: 03-30-2012 by D.Bird
Why does OK keep discontinuing this kayak? It is by far their best platform for river running, especially multi-day camping expeditions on moderate whitewater. I've had a Drifter since mid-2011. My river running buddy has had his since 2008.
- It handles mild class III whitewater just fine. Little bit of rocker in the hull allows it to be turned easily. Rides up and over waves rather than punch through.
- Weight capacity - I've loaded the Drifter to the gills with camping gear with no major change in handling characteristics.
- Stability - great platform for standing to site fish. No problem even in flat, but moving river water.
Unless you weigh about 120 lbs, the Drifter will be a wet ride. Plugging the scuppers will help in flatwater, but I run rivers and the scupper plugs are useless. Getting wet is part of the experience. The back tank well is a bit small for a 12 ft. kayak, especially if you're on a multi-day camping trip and need more rear storage space. It is not a fast kayak, but speed hasn't been a big issue for what I use it for.
So why did I give the Drifter a 6 out of 10? The #1 fatal flaw with any Ocean Kayak product is the design of the hull. (Is anyone from OK listening?) The scuppers are totally exposed to hazards. I guarantee you will blow out a scupper hole on a rock, eventually, and it will be the scuppers under the seat. Make sure you know how to do emergency repairs or you will be stranded. Other manufactures have figured this out. They place the scupper holes in channels to protect them from damage. It is a fairly simple design change and OK needs to implement it. (Is anyone from OK listing...?)
Why did I buy a Drifter knowing about this design flaw? There is a fix - strong resins and kevlar skids plates to close up the scuppers under the seat. Once you do this repair, the Drifter (in modified form) is possibly the best 12 ft. SOT for river running on the market, if you can find one.